1 out of every 3 blind people in the world live in India. The country has 15 million blind. Low-income states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are the worst affected. Bihar alone has 700,000 blind in both eyes.
Cataract is the primary cause for this needless blindness and can be easily cured through a simple sight-restoring surgery.
A simple sight-restoring surgery does not only restores vision, but also restores the earning capacity of the person. Additionally it frees any child caregivers (especially girls) at home to get back to school and continue their studies.
In India the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are amongst the worst affected in terms of poverty. In a highly patriarchal society like Bihar women face considerable hardships and discrimination. Social evils such as child marriage, dowry, domestic violence, low female literacy rate, and low female labour participation rates are rampant in the state.
It is well documented that removing gender-based discrimination and improving gender parity is key to pulling up low-income geographies. In other words, empowering women leads to reducing poverty.
Under Akhand Jyoti's signature programme "Football to Eyeball," rural girls are encouraged to play football to build their confidence and trained on life skills, formal education, and as professionally qualified optometrists.
On completion of the course they are employed back at Akhand Jyoti to drive its blindness elimination efforts, as full-time optometrists earning 3 to 6 more times more than their parents.
By 2030 Akhand Jyoti plans to train 1,500 rural girls as professionally qualified optometrist to drive its blindness elimination programme.
Childhood blindness and visual impairment are more disabling than adult onset blindness, because of the long span of life and their permanent effects on the developing eyes.
It is estimated that about 456,000 children in Bihar need vision correction due to refractive problems.
Good vision is the key for children to succeed in schools. A child's eyes are constantly in use in the classroom and at play. When their vision is not functioning properly, education and participation in sports can suffer. Children do not complain of defective vision and may not even be aware of their problem. This warrants early detection and treatment to prevent permanent disability.
Because vision may change frequently during the school years, regular eye and vision care is important. The most common vision problem is near-sightedness or myopia. In addition, problems of eye focusing, eye tracking and eye coordination may lead to a child to drop out from school.
A simple prescription eyeglass may provide the needed correction for many vision problems increasing the learning ability of a child.
Akhand Jyoti proposes to screen 500,000 rural poor children and dispense around 50,000 prescription glasses annually its school screening programme, thereby enabling provision of primary eye care treatment, identifying children for medical intervention and eye-surgeries. With the help of its partners, Akhand Jyoti does Eye surgeries for children completely free of cost.